By Lindy Pate
I’m a new missionary in the village. I want to do translation, but I have to learn the language first. That means I have become a child again—unable to communicate and basically useless. That is quite a change for someone who is highly competent and productive in their home culture. I am kept busy doing small things like selling fish hooks and batteries, giving people salt for produce, and taping up worn Bibles. I do basic medical work. In the morning and afternoon, I tromp through the village visiting people with a pen and paper. I write down what I learn. Sometimes people tell me whole sentences or paragraphs in the Apal language. I try to repeat what they say, but I am still working on nouns. Anything more than two syllables is usually too much.
One day Martha, the missionary I am staying with, wrote a speech for me on a piece of paper. I went around the village saying, “Our house is out of greens. You give me greens. I am characterized by a little bit of salt.” Meaning, we need greens and will give salt for greens. Several people gave me greens and I gave them bags of salt, but that experience got me thinking. In all the small interactions and plentiful interruptions in my day I want to be salty. I can be the salt of the earth even while learning nouns.
Lindy is a translator and a new member to the PNG branch. She is currently being mentored by Martha Wade.